Understanding Made Simple

                We were watching a game show a couple of weeks back.  Regarding prices, a contestant gave a prediction, yet it was so far off what is common.  On another show, we heard discussions about the economy, again amazed at the disconnect between perspective and real cause and effect.  In both, we noticed that there seemingly no realization or critical thinking skills being used.  Both seemed certain of themselves, and even upon additional information, there seemed to be no reflection.

                What is understanding?  It’s something we’re born with, but with time, can be lost.  I remember my folks telling me that “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.”  They were using a common phrase at the time which regarded the brain like muscles.  I never quite agreed, but I understood the need to learn and develop skills that would later help with life and opportunities.

                The concept is simple, and real, but all too often most people don’t “see” the importance of this little concept.  It’s like a small breeze.  You know it’s there, but you never think much about it.  And yet, it creates the San Francisco Bay Bridge, sends men to the moon (perhaps Mars one day), begins new businesses, brings inventions that improve our lives, and created both the internet and social media.

                Here’s how I’ve explained this before, something I came to better understand during college, but more so in application.  As we see it, it does require time, experience, and reflection, but I’ve known some younger people that seem to be blessed with tons of understanding.  Over the years, I’ve learned that people are all different, have their talents is various applications, but also what we spend time in usually provides the foundations depending upon how we approach and pursue.

                I look at a fan.  It just makes sense.  I look into the eyes of one I’m talking to, and the understanding of where that person is coming from just makes sense.  In college, I listened to the professors, seeking to understand where they were coming from, and once I “got it,” everything else fell into place.  I was stranded on the side of the road, many a time, but with the maintenance manual, repaired and got back on the road.  A friend asked me to train his dog, so I taught it to sit, raise a paw, and roll over, watching the dog for the clues it could give me that would work.  Understanding.  A friend of mine, who has taught many years, wanted to start a business.  So, he does both.  Understanding.

                So, again, what is understanding?  It’s not intellect, though the intellect is used to gather information.  Research?  Of course.  Experience?  Absolutely.  Time and patience?  Yes.  But I also think an inquisitive nature helps.  Curiosity.  Wonder.  Pursuit.  If you want to learn something, sometimes you will need others to instruct, but along the way, seek to understand, because the learning curve will be steeper, more so in some, but certainly higher.

                I’ll take this time to share something I’ve shared before.  I had a student who’d always received Ds, needed additional help, but was being mainstreamed into my class.  I spent some time with the special education teachers, listening as they explained their time with him.  I always enjoyed talking with the special education teachers for their experiences are varied and they have a plethora of students which they seek to help, trying different directions to bring out their best.

                Well, something happened in the third quarter.  He had been getting Ds and Cs, a little better than in previous years, but one day he asked me a question.  He wanted to know, if he got done early, what were his options?  At that time, I had some creative assignments students could take part in should they complete assignments early (i.e. creating games, letter writing, challenging dittos, etc.).   For some reason, completing his assignments as quickly as possible, then having some choices afterwards opened something up. I had always encouraged him, helped him with the work, but when suddenly he had choices, that I encouraged him to think for himself, something clicked.  He still had to do the main work well before he could move to the choices, but that motivated him.  He was motivated from within.  As I saw it, that part of a person engaged from within was expressed in different ways:  from work time to challenging assignments.  Well, to make a long story short, he was on the honor roll for the last two quarters.  He did it.  Not me.  He just clicked with what we both understood. 

                One more story.  A lady I had been dating wanted to go back to college, but she was afraid of having to take Algebra.  She said she never quite understood it in her younger days.  So, we sat together, going over some problems.  I explained those x, y, and z’s used in problems are like the empty boxes we all learned about in grade school.  You know:  3 + blank = 5.  Suddenly, she got it.  That little bit of information opened up her understanding.  Of course, the course took time, but she actually enjoyed learning Algebra. 

                Understanding is learning made live.  It engages us.  It makes what is on paper interesting.  And if we can learn to utilize something we were born with, we might be engaged to learn even more simply because we’re interested.  Then, the learning curved goes up.

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